Say What You Mean
by Em

Album: Dear Life (2020)
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Songfacts®:

  • This passionate, ethereal song finds the New Jersey-born singer-songwriter Em (short for Emily) looking for truth, as she sings:

    Say what you mean
    When you're talking to me


    "It was a period in my life where I was learning myself, how to stand up for myself in personal relationships," she told Songfacts. "I had a man kind of drag me along in a relationship. I would do anything to be with him and, at the end, he didn't know what he wanted. He completely lied to me at the end and it was me standing up and saying, 'Tell me the truth.'"

    "I only want the truth and I only want the truth from anyone I speak to," Em added. "Life is too short to beat around the bush or not have what you want and need. I had to learn that the hard way."
  • Em wrote and recorded this song in Woodstock, New York, with producer Chris Young. He came up with the first verse, which sparked the concept and the rest of the lyrics for Em.

    "Writing in Woodstock with that producer was very forced and precise," she explained. "I had to grow into myself and again, stand up for myself, what I believe in and the style and sound I wanted to sink into, one I could call my own. I'm very big on the truth as I feel it's the only thing that allows you to move forward and have fruitful connections in life. I'm hurt we're disconnected and you keep choosing hurt but I can't keep choosing that path and hurting myself too."
  • In the music video, Em emerges from bed in a dreamlike state. "I combined the element of Old Hollywood where I really connect with that feminine spirit," she said. "The one who would die for her man like Lana Del Rey conveys, but at the same time holds herself in a high regard and commands respect in her space. It's somber, it's mysterious, but most of all it's intuitive and it's strength in the renewal of letting your voice be heard for once. I will not tolerate half effort. I will not tolerate lies, disrespect, carelessness in my space. Enter with the right energy or leave. That's a theme I carry on into my latest music as well."
  • Surprisingly, the video was directed by Parris Mayhew, known for "Slam" by Onyx and "We Gotta Know" for his '80s hardcore band Cro-Mags.

    Most of the videos he makes are funded by record companies, but the "Say What You Mean" video was paid for out-of-pocket by Em and her mom, who is also her manager.

    "When a record label is giving me $100,000 it doesn't really mean that much to me, because it's some corporation," he said in a Songfacts interview. "But when an artist and her mom are saying, 'We're going to give you this money,' it was kind of a daunting thing."

    "It's a beautiful song," he added. "I starting coming up with these ideas that I had no idea how to shoot. But I wrote the treatment out, sent it to them, and they said, 'Do that.' And one of the ideas was, she is in bed and it's raining, and all the raindrops are on the glass, and she gets out of bed and walks over to a real close-up, and when she gets close, she looks into all the beads of water on the window, and her reflection is in all the beads of water, singing the chorus back at her. So, she's singing the verse in the close-up, but her reflection is singing the back-up vocals."

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